The World Bank, USA
Abstract – Education is one of the most important drivers for ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Since 1990, the number of out-of-school children around the world has been halved. Yet 61 million children today are not in school – and too many young people are finishing school without the knowledge and skills required for productive employment in a 21st century labour market.
The ten-year World Bank Group Education Strategy 2020 focuses on Learning for All by emphasising the need to:
Education is one of the most important drivers for ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Since 1990, targeted actions by a number of countries and their development partners have helped reduce by half the number of out-of-school children around the world. Yet 61 million children today are not in school – and there is abundant evidence that learning outcomes in many developing countries are alarmingly low, especially among disadvantaged populations. Because growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills that people acquire, not the number of years that they sit in a classroom, we must transform our call to action from Education for All to Learning for All. Learning for All means ensuring that all children and youth – not just the most privileged or most clever – not only can go to school but can acquire the knowledge and skills they need to lead healthy and productive lives, secure meaningful jobs, and contribute to society. Learning for All is exactly what the ten-year World Bank Group Education Strategy 2020 (World Bank Group 2011) emphasises:
Students of the Government Najeeb Memorial Girls High School in Gujranwala, Pakistan
In 2010, the World Bank Group embarked on a year-long, comprehensive process of global consultations and technical work to shape the Bank’s Education Strategy 2020. From Argentina to Mongolia, extensive consultations were held with stakeholders from more than 100 countries. In these conversations, representatives of governments, development partners, students, teachers, researchers, civil society, and business shared their views about the emerging education challenges facing developing countries and how the Bank can best support countries to expand both education access and quality.
First, foundational skills acquired early in childhood make possible a lifetime of learning. The traditional view of education as starting in primary school takes up the challenge too late. The science of brain development shows that learning needs to be encouraged early and often, both inside and outside of the formal schooling system. Prenatal health and early childhood development programmes that include education and health are consequently important to realise this potential. In the primary years, quality teaching is essential to give students the foundational literacy and numeracy on which Lifelong Learning depends. Adolescence is also a period of high potential for learning, but many teenagers leave school at this point, lured by the prospect of a job, the need to help their families, or turned away by the cost of schooling. For those who drop out too early, second-chance and non-formal learning opportunities are essential to ensure that all youth can acquire skills for the labour market.
Second, getting results requires smart investments – that is, investments that prioritise and monitor learning, beyond traditional metrics, such as the number of teachers trained or number of students enrolled. Quality needs to be the focus of education investments, with learning gains as the key metric of quality. Resources are too limited and the challenges too big to be designing policies and programmes in the dark. We need evidence on what works in order to invest smartly.
Third, learning for all means ensuring that all students, and not just the most privileged or gifted, acquire the knowledge and skills that they need. Major challenges of access remain for disadvantaged populations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We must lower the barriers that keep girls, children with disabilities, and ethnolinguistic minorities from attaining as much education as other population groups. Learning for All promotes the equity goals that underlie Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Without confronting equity issues, it will be impossible to achieve the objective of Learning for All.
Since we launched our global education strategy in April 2011, World Bank-supported programmes have:
Our strategy stretches to 2020, but who knows what the world will look like seven years from now?
We must prepare our youth today for the world we hope to realise: A world in which people can escape the bonds of deprivation and disadvantage to become their own agents for development and prosperity. To get there, we know that investments in education must focus not just on inputs like new classrooms, teacher training, textbooks, and computers, but also on all the policies, incentives, and financing that make education systems work.
To ensure that developing countries can be competitive in today’s global marketplace, we must equip the next generation with the essential cognitive skills and the skills for critical thinking, teamwork, and innovation. Knowledge and skills can expand the horizons of our youth and enable them to take advantage of emerging opportunities. We must also measure what students learn, and hold govern ments and educators accountable if they don’t.
1 Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER). Available at bit.ly/12cM1IV
World Bank Group (2011): World Bank Group Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All: Investing in People’s Knowledge and Skills to Promote Development. Available at bit.ly/hTiJbA
For more details on the progress of the World Bank Group Education Strategy 2020, please visit: bit.ly/fSCttF
Dr Elizabeth King is Director of Education in the Human Development Network of the World Bank. In this position, she is the World Bank‘s senior spokesperson for global policy and strategic education issues in developing countries. Until January 2009, she was a manager in the Bank‘s research department, heading the team that focuses on human development issues. She has published on topics such as household
investments in human capital; the linkages between education, poverty and economic development; gender issues in development, especially women‘s education; education finance, and the impact of decentralisation reforms.
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